PRO BASKETBALL—The Chicago Bulls had their best week of the season with three successive wins and began to look as if they had regained their playoff form of two seasons ago. The Bulls opened the week with a 103-101 double overtime victory over Seattle, then defeated Atlanta 101-95 and Kansas City 96-91, for their ninth win in 11 games. Chicago's turnaround came shortly after rookie Scott May returned to the lineup after a bout with mononucleosis, and in the Bulls' three wins he scored 12, 18 and 18 points. Quinn Buckner, another rookie and a former teammate of May's at Indiana University, received lavish praise after helping Milwaukee win three straight. When the Bucks defeated Golden State 112-103, Milwaukee Coach Don Nelson credited Buckner with "three superb games," particularly on defense in this one; Buckner held the Warriors' Phil Smith to 10 points, despite Smith's 21.3-point average this season. Denver, meanwhile, rolled along with a 3½-game edge in the Midwest Division, as the Nuggets beat Philadelphia 108-94 and Seattle 123-95. Philadelphia maintained a slim lead in the Atlantic Division by defeating the New York Knicks 105-104 before 19,694 spectators in Madison Square Garden. The 76ers, who expect to slug it out with the Knicks for the division title now that New York has Bob McAdoo, won on George McGinnis' 15-foot basket with one second remaining. As the Knicks pulled to within three games of the leaders, they continued to display mercurial changes in team image as they experimented with different lineups. After a 133-103 win over Detroit, Knick Coach Red Holzman said, "We seem to be meshing quicker than we expected." Portland defeated Kansas City 99-94 and Seattle 110-95 and finished the week with the best won-lost record in the league and a 2½ game lead over Los Angeles in the Pacific Division. Cleveland beat Boston 108-101 and lost to Washington 117-99. In the latter game the Bullets' Len Robinson scored 14 of his 28 points in the third period, and Elvin Hayes added 20 and had 11 rebounds and five blocked shots to give Washington its only win in four tries.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL—Alabama defeated UCLA 36-6 in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis; Oklahoma easily handled Wyoming 41-7 in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.; and the South beat the North 31-10 in the Blue-Gray all-star game in Montgomery, Ala.
PRO FOOTBALL—The Minnesota Vikings and the Oakland Raiders won their playoff games, and thus will meet in Super Bowl XI at Pasadena (page 12). In the NFC championship game at Bloomington, Minn., the Vikings jumped out to a 17-0 lead, held on as the Rams scored all 13 of their points in the third quarter, then scored an insurance TD on a 12-yard burst by reserve Back Sammy Johnson in the final period for a 24-13 win and their fourth trip to the Super Bowl. Oakland Quarterback Ken Stabler threw two touchdown passes, and the Raiders outrushed the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers by 157-72 yards to win the AFC title game in Oakland 24-7.
HOCKEY—NHL: During a holiday-shortened week, Philadelphia caught and passed the New York Islanders in the Patrick Division. Atlanta remained in third, nine points behind the Flyers, but as the Flames' franchise slipped nearer insolvency, Atlanta players agreed to buy up $25,000 worth of tickets to home games to help keep the team afloat. Philadelphia ran its unbeaten streak to 17 games with a 5-2 win over Washington and a tie with the New York Rangers. The Rangers trailed Philadelphia by two goals before scrambling to a 3-3 standoff. The next night the Rangers again fell two goals behind, this time against Boston, then rallied for another 3-3 tie as rookie Don Murdoch scored his 26th and 27th goals. The Bruins' stalemate, plus a pair of 4-2 wins by Buffalo over Toronto and Chicago, gave the Sabres the Adams Division lead. Smythe Division-leading St. Louis knocked off Vancouver 4-2 as Bob Gassoff scored a goal with three seconds remaining in the second period to break a 2-2 deadlock. Vancouver dropped a pair of games, one of them (5-4) to Montreal, which had a 21-point edge over second-place Pittsburgh in the Norris Division.
January 3, 1977
WHA: If what Birmingham was showing last week wasn't exactly muscle, at least it wasn't just bull, either. After spending most of the season in the basement of the Eastern Division, the Bulls defeated two of the league's best teams. Jean-Guy Lagace's goal in the third period proved decisive in Birmingham's 3-2 victory over Quebec, and the next night the still lowly (12-25-1) but improving Bulls pasted Cincinnati 6-2. San Diego, which has fought its way out of the Western Division's second echelon to first place, opened an eight-point lead over Houston by beating Phoenix 5-4 in overtime on Norm Ferguson's 12-foot wrist shot in the extra period. Houston stayed close by defeating New England 4-0 on No. 2 Goalie Ron Grahame's second shutout of the season. Quebec, leading Indianapolis in the Eastern Division race by three points, snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over Minnesota.
SOCCER—The U.S. national team was defeated 3-0 by Canada in the first round of World Cup play at Port-au-Prince, Haiti and was eliminated from the tournament (page 46).
MILEPOSTS—FIRED: By the Chicago Black Hawks, BILLY REAY, 58, after 13¼ years as head coach. Reay, who coached before he played in the NHL, compiled a 542-385-175 record. He was replaced by BILL WHITE, 37, a veteran Black Hawk defenseman who has been sidelined with a back injury.
FIRED: By the New Orleans Jazz, BILL VAN BREDA KOLFF, the team's head coach for the past 2½ seasons. He was replaced by ELGIN BAYLOR, who was assistant coach. The Jazz were 14-12 when van Breda Kolff was released.
NAMED: As head football coach, FRED AKERS, 38, at the University of Texas; RALPH STAUB, 47, at the University of Cincinnati; CHUCK SHELTON, 41, at Drake; and PETE CARMICHAEL, 35, at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Akers was head coach at Wyoming; Staub was offensive coordinator at Ohio State; Shelton was an assistant at Drake; and Carmichael was a defensive coordinator at Columbia for three seasons.
PENALIZED: The UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY, for basketball and football recruiting violations. The NCAA placed the school on probation for two years, reduced its football scholarships by five and basketball grants by two and prohibited the football team from appearing on network TV or playing in a bowl in 1977.
RESIGNED: Effective at the end of the current college basketball season, Al McGuire, 48, head coach at Marquette for 13 years. McGuire, who is leaving to pursue business interests full time, has a 274-75 record with the Warriors. He will also step down as the school's athletic director.
DIED: BLENDA GAY, 26, a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles; of stab wounds; in Blackwood, N.J. His wife Roxanne, 25, has been charged with first degree murder, and aggravated assault and battery.
DIED: GEORGE EASTMENT, 72, former track coach at Manhattan College; of a heart attack; in Riverdale, N.Y. Between 1946 and 1963 his teams won more Metropolitan Conference championships (35) than all other league schools combined. Eastment was coach of the U.S. team in the first U.S.-U.S.S.R. meet in 1958 and chairman of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Committee (1961-64).